Shadow Publishing is a small press publisher run by award-winning editor and author David A. Sutton. Its aim is to publish the lesser known writers and themes in dark fantasy and horror fiction.
Shadow Publishing was a logical extension from my small press magazine Shadow Fantasy Literature Review. Although I’d ceased publishing that some years before and had moved on to professional anthologies, Shadow had been held in high regard during the hey-day of duplicated fanzines and it was sensible for me to keep the name going. Voices from Shadow, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Shadow, was published in 1994. Then there was a hiatus until 2000, when I published my review of the UK horror small press in another chapbook, On the Fringe for Thirty Years. A year later I had decided to go the whole hog and publish a hardcover anthology – on a theme that had always struck me was a good one, inspired by a short sojourn in that most mysterious of cities, Venice. So Phantoms of Venice appeared in 2001.
And then Shadow Publishing took a break, but now it’s back – why, and why now?
Well, by the start of the new century, Dark Terrors, which I edited along with Stephen Jones for Gollancz, was coming to an end. Volume 6 was the last we were contracted to do, published in 2002 in hardcover. Steve and I had had a great run with Dark Voices: The Pan Book of Horror (6 volumes up to 1994) and then Dark Terrors. So Phantoms of Venice was a progression for me from working for a publisher, back to being both editor and publisher. Phantoms was a great project to work on, but it was expensive to print (a limited 200 edition) and writers’ fees meant it was going to be difficult to make a modest profit. I think the book was well thought of and had a few decent reviews, but sales were slow and I went away and did some other things for a few years!
But it was always my intention to continue Shadow Publishing and now I had a few ideas for a direction I could take. My first thought was that there should be a Shadow Book of Horror anthology series. But first I thought I would dip my toe in the water with a reprint of my 1975 anthology The Satyr’s Head & Other Tales of Terror, first published by Corgi and long out of print. Then there was the concept of a “Writers from the Shadows” series. These would be collections of stories by authors who were no longer alive and who had perhaps been neglected or forgotten. The Female of the Species And Other Terror Tales by Richard Davis is the first of these.
What type of horror do you publish?
I think that you would have to categorise the type of horror as contemporary mainstream horror that is not particularly experimental or principally classical. In a sense it’s rooted in the tradition of horror anthologies and collections that came along in the wave of horror in the 1960s and 1970s.
Well, it’s what I grew up with, so nostalgia plays its part here. Whether it was watching the terrifying horror-sf crossover of the BBC’s Quatermass and the Pit, or lovingly placing a new Arkham House book on my shelves… or picking up the next Aickman edited Fontana Book of Ghost Stories, or finding curious gems like Medley Macabre appear from apparently nowhere. This was my schooling and Shadow magazine was where I made contact with the like-minded — where I discovered and was able to publish the opinions of a number of genre specialists.
Who do you think is the most influential horror writer of all time, and why?
If only one it would have to be M. R. James. But pinning it down to one is too restrictive. I would have to add H. P. Lovecraft and Fritz Leiber and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and Arthur Machen.
Where do you see Shadow Publishing going in the future?
I’d like to think that I could publish a line of popular genre books; books that fans would think worthy to have on their bookshelves. Not because they are special limited editions, or with superior bindings, but because those fans believe the books add value to their collections. Just like those 60s anthologies and collections I bought at two shillings and sixpence a copy!
What are your upcoming releases?
Next up is Johnny Mains’ second collection, with the brilliant title Frightfully Cosy and Mild Stories for Nervous Types. It contains twelve stories, new and reprint, and with an introduction by Stephen Volk. This should be out by Fantasycon 2012. Planned after that is another in the “Writers from the Shadows” series — this one collecting stories by James Wade. Then I was thinking about The Shadow Book of Horror. But, and as it happens I’m delighted to do this initially, Shadow will be the publisher of the first English language collection by my old comrade from the fanzine days, Eddy C. Bertin. The working title is The Whispering Horror. A collection of his excellent work is long, long overdue! Eddy’s stories have been published widely in Europe, America and in the UK over many years – think forty years! He’s an absolute must for a collection. I am over the moon to be involved in that!
Which authors would you most like to see write for you?
Well, that depends on what the individual project is. Should I name names? No, I’ll have to remain vague! Let’s see what comes along…
Are you currently open for submissions?
I suppose that follows from the previous question. For The Shadow Book of Horror, I have not yet decided, so no writers’ guidelines are available yet. Once I have more details, I’ll make an announcement through the usual channels and on my website.
Now regarding other submissions, if anyone has ideas for additions to the “Writers from the Shadows” series, I’ll be happy to see any proposals.
And I am happy to consider other ideas for books, but please do not send manuscripts at this time, but pitch your idea with a short summary.
I had my fears about e-books, I can’t deny it. Anyone who treasures even the tattiest, dog-eared horror paperback and the smell of yellowed book paper on their shelves will have those doubts. I still have my Four Square copy of The Haunting of Hill House, and although all the pages fall out of all the Four Square Books after one reading, I treasure that copy. But now I think e-books do complement the print industry. Any threat will be to bookshops, I suppose. In a way e-books may help genre publishing, where small print runs may have been otherwise costly. But I think that because genre has a special place for us, there will always be print editions. I don’t own an e-book reader myself, but my wife is a voracious Kindle-er. Apparently, with Kindles, besides being suitable for scantily clad damsels to have tucked in their bikini bottoms, they suit us older types who find it hard to hold thousand page tomes in our wisened hands these days! (and probably couldn’t even extract that Kindle from the lady’s bikini bottom, either!).
Do you have any plans to release Shadow Publishing books in electronic format?
Not at the moment. I notice here and there that some of the genre small presses are trying out e-book editions. My gut instinct says to do print editions and issue e-books later on, the same way as hardcovers always preceded paperback editions. I’m less inclined to go straight to the electronic version. So anyway, I probably will issue them at some stage. I don’t think the immense e-book readership can be ignored.
Finally, what are you most proud of from your publishing career so far, and why?
Ooo-er! That’s a difficult one. I should say the most high-profile thing, shouldn’t I? The one thing that reached the widest audience and had the most impact. But when Steve Jones asked me to be the fiction editor for Fantasy Tales that was a moment! Fantasy Tales under Steve’s design became a latter-day pulp; a British Weird Tales for the 70s. Yes, I was very proud of what we achieved with that, even as a small press magazine before it became a paperback edition. And it led on to other things, so yes, Fantasy Tales.